Tag Archives: women and sailing

To Dock or Un-Dock – That is the Question

You know, I am not sure how this all came to be, but right from the beginning, I was relegated to the first mate’s position. One of my duties was to hang on for dear life to any rope thrown my way and to do the unthinkable – jump from a moving vessel onto a bobbing dock.

But my momma didn’t raise any stupid babies and in spite of the Captain’s terse instructions to “jump”, it seemed that the chasm of water between myself and the dock  grew wider as my fear grew deeper. I think it is a perception thing as I have the same issue with escalators. I have trouble coordinating my movements with objects that are also moving.

The fear of docking began to consume me and I started looking for reasons not to go out for fear of having to come back in.  The turning point came during a routine visit to the pump-out station when a last minute hesitation on my part resulted in an unflattering splash.  Fighting my way to the surface with my sea-logged running shoes tied tightly on my feet, I tried not to think about what might be in the gallon of sea water I had just swallowed.  Did I mention that we were at the marina’s pump-out station?

Luckily, my splashing exit was noticed and the Captain managed to put the boat in reverse, jump off, secure the lines and then haul me out of the water.  It wasn’t lost on me that he did all of this without my assistance. What the heck was I doing in the water, mooring line still in hand in danger of being squished between the dock and boat.

I was determined to find a resolution to this problem which was beginning to cause a mutiny for our two-person crew.  I asked questions about docking to anyone who would listen and absorbed their suggestions like a sponge. Then finally, an experienced sailor said the words I was dying to hear, “Women shouldn’t be jumping off boats. They don’t have the strength to hold the lines.”  Hallelujah. A logical statement of fact.

I ran back to our boat to share the news with the Captain. He listened patiently and being the other half of a successful marriage, knew that a compromise was in order.

Further attempts at docking saw the Captain on the deck with lines ready as I carefully steered our boat into her slip.  Scared?  You bet, but I was highly motivated to do this right so that I didn’t have to be the one jumping off the boat.

This was the beginning of us learning how to function as a crew on our boat – not as husband and wife. We have watched this scenario many times with the wrong crew member jumping off boats – often unsuccessfully with ensuing shouting and finger pointing.  It is the Captain’s job to handle the boat and bring it in safely to the dock so ideally there is no jumping involved.  The strongest crew member should be handling the lines.

Docking and undocking continue to be strategic exercises balancing the effects of wind and current with the 50/50 factor of a heavy sailboat with a 3/4 keel – 50% of the time she goes one way and 50% of the time she goes the other! Working as a team we are now able to bring our boat in without drama and without anyone prematurely exiting – but only when no one is around to see it. When there is an audience, we are bound to flub our arrival. Murphy’s Law I suspect.

Galley 101

Unlike a home where you have your supplies neatly organized – baking supplies here, soup tins there – on a boat you store your supplies wherever they fit. So you might find the bag of oatmeal occupying the space between your bowls and the tall jar of artichoke hearts nestled safely amongst your tea towels to protect it from breakage in rough seas.

On long cruises, I make an inventory list of all provisions and where they are stored.  While assembling ingredients for a meal, I scratch off each item so that I always know what I am running low on. This makes it much easier when you go ashore to provision as your shopping list is already completed.  It also helps you keep on top of supplies that might be tucked away in a far corner of a seldom-vsited locker to emerge as a rusted tin of unidentified contents months later.

It always seems that I have to move 3 things in order to make any meal. If your partner is aboard while you are doing this, it usually means that they have to move 3 times too because they are sitting on the settee above one locker, then move to the small chair above the second locker and finally are standing in front of the deep locker where the few remaining items are stowed. We call it the “Sailboat Shuffle.” After many years of living aboard, we do this dance without realizing it.

Crossing the Strait of Georgia

Cooking underway adds a whole other dimension to adventures in the galley. If the sea conditions suddenly worsen in the middle of your meal preparations, you have to literally strap yourself in. Balancing yourself with legs braced while holding a pot with one hand and a spoon with the other, conjuring up a bowl of oatmeal would impress the judges at a Cirque du Soleil audition!

Although it involves a few additional steps, a meal cooked at sea has that extra ingredient that makes it taste better than anything cooked onshore – adventure. Bon appetit!